Free 2-Day Shipping on Orders Over $50
Article Photo Credit: Noah Howell

Five Essential Yoga Stretches for Runners

I am a trail runner, a yoga teacher, and a single mother. I am not sure which of these causes me the most joy or the most suffering. They each have their moments, I suppose. Today I am choosing the joy and suffering of running nine miles in the mountains. I feel tired, tight, and satisfied.

As a yogi, I understand the intense effect running has on the body and I value the importance of stretching to keep my joints and muscles in balance. At the end of a long run my soul is soothed, and I take a moment to soothe my body as well.

Runner’s Lunge

DSC00333

I start by stepping my right foot forward and dropping to my left knee. Hooking my left toes under, I press into my left leg until I can feel the stretch in my hip flexors. The energy of the back leg pulls my torso away from my right quad. Then I bend the right knee deeper and lift my left knee off the ground into a runners lunge. This engagement of the back leg keeps my lower back free from compression and keeps the stretch in my legs.

Lizard Pose

DSC00341

Now I shift the focus to my hips. After long runs my hips feel incredibly sore. Most women runners  have wider hips than men. It’s an anatomical feature I have for the most part made peace with; however, some backcountry singletrack trails are quite narrow and require me to cross foot over foot, putting pressure on the outer hip joint.

From my lunging position I lower my elbows to the ground. Keeping my right knee next to my right shoulder, I come into Lizard Pose. My left knee is still off the ground as I feel the stretch deeply in my right hip. I allow my right knee to turn gently open and my foot to roll to the outer edge. This relieves the tightness in my pelvis and hip socket. I’ll repeat these poses on the left side until both hips feel settled.

Downward Dog

DSC00360

Next I step back into Downward Facing Dog. This is a yoga pose I have done hundreds of times, yet my body feels different every time I do it. Downward Facing Dog can stretch the back, hamstrings, and calves, but today this pose is for my shoulders. Pressing my chest towards my legs, I keep my heels lifted, hips back, and breathe deeply into my shoulders as my head drops between my arms.

Mental burdens can tighten my shoulders when I run. Are my kids happy? Did I pay the bills on time? Am I putting energy into the right work project? Am I lovable? If I’m not careful, stretches of beautiful scenery will pass by while I’m engaged in “solve it” mode. That’s when I practice the yoga concept of staying present. I refocus on my breathing and begin to notice the trees and flowers again. But those momentary lapses of stressful thinking create tightness in my shoulders, which now, in Downward Facing Dog, I feel releasing.

Cow’s Head

I’ve been known to lie in the dirt after a run to ensure a good stretch. Today is no exception. I lie on my back and cross my right leg over my left. I reach up, grab my feet, and pull my knees towards my chest. This is a variation on Supta Gomukhasana, or Cow’s Head pose. I remember the first time I did this pose. I was in a yoga class with a friend and we looked at each other as if to say, “This hurts so good!” Now it’s become a standard post-run stretch that I feel in my hip, piriformis, IT band, knee, even my ankle. I wish I had a friend here to sit on my crossed ankles to torture me and deepen the stretch.

DSC00382

After I’ve done this on both sides, I put my feet to ground with bent knees in a wide bridge pose. Moving my knees from side to side I am doing one of my favorite stretches called windshield wipers. It stretches my quads right where I need it. As I focus on exhaling, I feel the tightness in my legs releasing.

DSC00395

I can also feel that my session of mountain solitude needs to wrap up. My children will be expecting me to manage dinner, homework, and bedtime. I finish with what I believe is the most important pose, Savasana. Lying with legs and arms extended, I am completely still. Closing my eyes, I tune into my breathing and soften the ribs around my heart. I imagine I am absorbing the calming energy from the earth beneath me. My heart rate has slowed down, my breathing is slow and full.

I feel pride and gratitude to be a part of a community of women trail runners and yoginis that value health, the mountains, running, and have a desire to push ourselves. We are doing things our mother’s generation never did. I’ve already introduced my children to the yoga mat. I hope I can also inspire them to come play on the trails in the mountains.

As I make the drive home down the winding canyon road, I feel strong, relaxed, and ravenously hungry. I also feel deep satisfaction in my body and soul. No problems were solved, the world didn’t change while I was running (or did it?) but something inside me shifted. I’m not sure if it was the running, the yoga, or the magic of the mountains, but I feel courageous and patient to face my challenges, and a renewed appreciation for the goodness of life.

Related

The Ins & Outs of Hydration

It’s All in the Hips! Yoga for Skiers

Running Nutrition: It’s a Process, Not a Formula

SUP Yoga: Five Essential Poses

How to Avoid Running Injuries

Shop

Yoga Mats & Accessories

Running Shoes

Running Gear & Apparel

Photo Credit: Noah Howell

5Comments

Here's what the community has to say.

Zeljko Zugic

Zeljko Zugic

Great post. Would be even greater if you made a video of this here or on you-tube. It would become an instant success with a big number of views for sure. Thanks for posting.

(0)

Herve M.

Herve M.

These are great stretches...Thanks for sharing the lizard pose, which I will add to my repertoire. I do not run but hike long distances and stretching is no longer an option!

(0)

Kristin Wuhrman

Kristin Wuhrman

Very nice - excellent information! I will be incorporating these into my love for running.

(0)

mark gwyn

mark gwyn

Great article thanks for posting it I will add these to my post run stretches.

(0)

Erik Green

Erik Green

I've never tried lizard pose, but it looks like a good hip opener. The last two are nice variations on stretches I already do. I'll have to give them a try.

(0)